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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chinese Reject Ban As Yeltsin En Route

BEIJING -- China, in its first response to last week's Moscow summit call for a global ban on nuclear tests, said Tuesday that it was not yet time to close the door on the use of "peaceful nuclear explosions."

The statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang was issued a day before the arrival in the Chinese capital Wednesday of President Boris Yeltsin, who was asked by Western leaders to put the proposed test ban to Chinese leaders during his three-day visit.

"We believe nuclear explosions are one of the ways mankind makes peaceful use of nuclear energy," Shen told a regular news briefing. "In fact, experts on nuclear matters still have differing views on this matter. Therefore we believe that the door to nuclear explosions should not be closed, at least for now."

Shen declined to comment on whether the test issue or China's role in international nuclear non-proliferation would be raised during Yeltsin's scheduled meeting Wednesday with President Jiang Zemin.

An agreement to ban all testing of nuclear weapons by September was the major outcome of a weekend summit meeting in Moscow of leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations and Russia. China was the only nuclear power not represented at the meeting.

Yeltsin pledged at the meeting to press China to join the agreement and said he hoped to gain China's "understanding."

Beijing has resisted intense pressure to join an international testing moratorium, saying China's 43 tests to date were a fraction of those carried out by the four other nuclear powers -- the United States, Russia, Britain and France.

In January, China said it would halt its underground nuclear blasts only when a global test ban treaty takes effect. The declaration came after France announced a halt to its nuclear test program in the south Pacific that it had resumed late last year to widespread international condemnation.

China is believed to have plans for at least two test explosions in 1996. Its tests are normally carried out at its Lop Nor site in the sparsely populated northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Until the nuclear safety summit last weekend, Russia had stopped short of endorsing Western calls for a global test ban treaty, and Yeltsin said Russia reserved the right to resume testing and to leave a future treaty if Russia's supreme interests were threatened.

In talks in Geneva on a test ban, Western nuclear powers have supported a ban on all nuclear tests, however small. China is the only nuclear power not to have suspended testing while the negotiations continued.

Yeltsin flew Tuesday to the city of Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East, where he was spending the night before flying on to Beijing Wednesday.

He was due to visit a bridge being built across the Amur River, lay a wreath at a war memorial, and meet veterans, businessmen, local leaders, young people and others, the president's office said.

He was met in Khabarovsk by Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov, who will accompany him to Beijing. Yeltsin also will visit Shanghai on Friday before returning to Moscow on Saturday, with a stop in Kazakhstan.

As well as raising the test ban issue, Yeltsin also will hold discussions on trade and border issues. Although relations between Russia and China have improved steadily since the 1991 Soviet collapse, their 4,000-kilometer frontier is still a source of tension.

In all, Yeltsin and his Chinese hosts will sign a package of 14 agreements, aides said.

In Shanghai, Yeltsin will sign a treaty aimed at securing borders with China and the leaders of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.